Population: 9,7 million
Area: 86 600 km2
GDP (PPP): 174,3 billion dollar (estimate 2015)
GDP per capita (PPP): 18 700 dollar (estimate 2015)
Rate of growth: 4 percent (estimate 2013)
Head of state: Ilham Aliyev
Head of government: Artur Tahir Rasizade
Azerbaijan gained its independence when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. Presently, the country is ruled by an authoritarian president with dynastic ambitions. The rule of law is fundamentally flawed. Oppositional politicians are frequently being subjected to violence, torture and wanton arrests.
Freedom of opinion and expression is severely limited and there is no real protection of property rights. Presidential and parliamentary elections have been heavily criticized for extensive election fraud.
Development toward democracy and rule of law has stagnated in Azerbaijan. The parliamentary elections held on 7 November 2010 proved no signs of progress. The Organisation for Security and Coopeartion in Europe (OSCE) noted serious violations of election procedures. Concerns were raised over restrictions of fundamental freedoms, media bias, one-party dominance and violations on Election Day.
The expectations for the presidential election in October 2013 to meet international standards were low. But no one had probably expected that the Central Election Commission should happen to publish the election results already a day before the polls closed. The regime later tried to white-wash this mistake.
However, the election was marred by an even greater international scandal described by the European Stability Initiative (ESI) in the report, “Disgraced – Azerbaijan and The End of election monitoring as we know it”. A majority of the international observers, including the Council of Europe and the European Parliament delegations, despite the ODIHR observers reporting on massive fraud, expressed that they considered the elections largely free and transparent. ESI note in their report how many observers have more or less hidden connections to the regime.
ESI had already in 2012, in the report “Caviar Diplomacy – How Azerbaijan Silenced the Council of Europe”, highlighted how the regime made use of what they call caviar diplomacy, to buy influence. The ESI claim to have proof that a number of politicians, from all camps as well as officials of the Council of Europe, were bought by the regime prior to the parliamentary election in 2010. Prior to the 2013 presidential election this so-called diplomacy had thus escalated.
The conflict over Nagorno Karabakh is still unsolved and there seem to be no constructive tendencies of continued state-building.
Since 2003, the Jarl Hjalmarson Foundation is cooperating with National Independence Party of Azerbaijan (NIPA). The Foundation has organised seminars for regional leaders as well as for younger politicians on the themes of democratization and practical political work. There is a pressing need for contacts with political organisations in other countries and NIPA has demonstrated interest both in gathering knowledge of democratisation and in implementing it. Another important matter is to strengthen the party locally and to help it accommodate a new generation of decision-makers.